Five Must-Have Skills For Today's Hottest Jobs


Skills For Today's Hottest Jobs

Think you have what it takes to succeed in the new economic landscape? Pick up these five skills and you won't have to think.

By Terence Loose
Do you have the skills that will land you a high-paying, high-growth job of the post-recession era? It's a good question, one answered in a new report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
The report, called "Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020," found that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education or training. A full 24 percent will require bachelor's degrees.
But perhaps even more intriguing was their list of the top dozen skills needed for high-paying, high-growing jobs. Critical thinking, complex problem-solving, speaking, decision-making, and yes, even math, made the list.
So, we matched up the top skills from the Georgetown study with high-paying and/or high-growth careers that the U.S. Department of Labor described as requiring those same skills. Then we asked career experts to weigh in. Read on to see what you might need to learn to survive - and possibly thrive - in the new economy.

Skill #1: Speaking

Are you afraid to speak up in front of others? Well, we suggest you get over it, since the Georgetown report found that over 40 percent of high-wage, high-growth, high-demand jobs require high levels of this skill.
Why Speaking Skills Are Important: "We know that self-presentation is always important to engender a positive impression. Being an effective communicator is taken as an indicator of professional competence for many jobs and is something that with the right attention, can be improved," says Elliot D. Lasson, executive director at Joblink of Maryland, Inc., a nonprofit job and career information hub.
Career Options for Those with Good Speaking Skills*:

Public Relations Manager

Projected Job Growth: 16 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $95,450, with the bottom 10 percent making $51,630 and the top 10 percent making $180,480.**
These are the professionals who are responsible for "spin." Or, as the U.S. Department of Labor puts it, they help create and manage a favorable image for their clients. Hence, speaking is sort of important.
"In careers like public relations verbal communication is key. One unintentional sentence or miscommunicated concept can lead to disaster," says Debra Wheatman, a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and president of Careers Done Write, a company offering career coaching and resume writing services. Public relations managers are often the public face of the company, speaking on behalf of it.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.
Education Needed: The Department of Labor says that employers usually require public relations managers to have a bachelor's degree in public relations, communication, or journalism. Some employers prefer master's degrees in public relations or journalism.

Human Resources Manager

Projected Job Growth: 13 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $99,720, with the bottom 10 percent making $59,020 and the top 10 percent making $173,140.**
Human resources managers handle everything from interviewing new employees to mediating employee disputes, says the U.S. Department of Labor. That may take a lot of both of the Georgetown's top skills: active listening and speaking.
Employers need their liaison to their staff to have the ability to articulate thoughts clearly and in a cogent way to ensure "that the right message is delivered accurately, professionally, and in a manner that is appropriate," Wheatmen says.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Human Resources Program.
Education Needed: To pursue a career as a human resources manager, you'll usually need a bachelor's in human resources or business administration, according to the Department of Labor.

Skill #2: Critical Thinking

There's no-brainer thinking - I want ice cream now! Then there's thinking that, as the Georgetown report says, uses "logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to problems." And while no-brainer thinking might be tastier, it didn't make the Georgetown chart, but critical thinking did.
Why Critical-Thinking Skills Are Important: Lasson says employers want to know that their workers are able to take others' viewpoints into consideration to find the best solution for the business. "Critical thinking shows that we are able to see a problem, not merely on a superficial level, but with depth. Being able to break down an issue into its component parts helps create a big picture view," he says.
Career Options for Those with Good Critical-Thinking Skills*:

Market Research Analyst

Projected Job Growth: 41 percent*
Annual Median Salary: $60,300, with the bottom 10 percent making $33,280 and the top 10 percent making $113,500.*
Market research analysts provide the vital role of studying market conditions to advise companies on what products and services will sell in which regions, says the U.S. Department of Labor. And, says Wheatman, with the amount of data being collected in our tech-heavy world, critical-thinking skills are a must-have for these pros.
"In market research critical thinking demonstrates the ability of the professional to apply ideas, concepts, and theories to develop the intellectual capacity to come to an effective decision about a product or service's future and worth," says Wheatman. She adds that critical thinking is crucial for this career because it is based on logic, as opposed to emotion or something subjective. Companies rely on market research to make major decisions that could decide their own future.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.
Education Needed: Employers typically want market research analysts to have a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field, says the Department of Labor. It adds that many of these professionals have a degree in math, statistics, or computer science while others have a background in areas such as business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences.

Registered Nurse

Projected Job Growth:* 26 percent
Annual Median Salary:* $65,470, with the bottom 10 percent making $45,040 and the top 10 percent making $94,720.
If you're into thinking critically about how to help people be their healthiest, the career of nurse might be a good fit. Since much of medical work is logical and methodical, Wheatman says critical thinking is a critical nursing skill.
"Nurses also must be accurate and logical in thought to deliver an effective and appropriate level of client care," says Wheatman.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.
Education Needed: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are three typical educational paths to pursuing nursing: an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses also must be licensed.

Skill #3: Judgment and Decision-Making

Whether it's how to train new employees, where the new product launch should take place, or what color to paint the company halls, judgment and decision-making is a top-ten trait with employers, according to the Georgetown study.
Why Decision-Making Skills Are Important: Lasson says employers want employees who can utilize all the information at their disposal, consider it carefully, and "using the aforementioned critical-thinking skills," come to a wise decision. Good decision-making is at the root of every aspect of our personal and professional lives, he says. That's why it's so key.
Career Options for Those with Good Decision-Making Skills*:

Training and Development Manager

Projected Job Growth: 15 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $95,400, with the bottom 10 percent making $54,070 and the top 10 percent making $164,640.**
Here's a profession where you'd use your own skills to plan and direct programs that would enhance other employees' skills, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
When you're in charge of developing the talents of others, clear, timely decisions are important, says Wheatman. "In some cases, the more time it takes to make a decision can lead to higher levels of anxiety among employees," she says. They need clear direction and goals to do their best work, she says. When they are absent, it can lower productivity and profits, she adds.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.
Education Needed: Although the Department of Labor says training and development managers come from a variety of educational backgrounds, they say these professionals often have a bachelor's degree in human resources, business administration, or a related field. Some employers prefer or require a master's degree.

Skill #4: Complex Problem-Solving

Let's be honest, here's a definition of work that fits most jobs: Someone has a bunch of problems, and they need someone else to spend eight hours a day solving them. Maybe that's why complex problem-solving made the top ten on Georgetown's list of coveted skills.
Why Problem-Solving Skills Are Important: In any business, any number of problems arise daily, and the owner/president can't be expected to solve them all. In short, modern business is filled with complex problems. That's why, says Lasson, employers want employees with strong problem-solving skills. "A big part of this is learning from the past and creating contingencies to be put into play the next time that the same issue arises," he says.
Career Options for Those with Good Problem-Solving Skills*:

Software Developer, Systems Software

Projected Job Growth: 32 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $99,000, with the bottom 10 percent making $62,800 and the top 10 percent making $148,850.**
Talk about complex problems. Can you imagine the computer code for a touch screen iPhone? Lasson says complex problem-solving skills are a requirement for software developers because, essentially, that's what this profession is all about. "For a software developer, he/she might have to quickly identify where within the custom code a glitch might reside," he says. Plus, designing the programs is, in itself, one big puzzle.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.
Education Needed: The U.S. Department of Labor says that software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. A math degree may also be considered to be acceptable.

Medical or Health Services Manager

Projected Job Growth: 22 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $88,580, with the bottom 10 percent making $53,940 and the top 10 percent making $150,560.**
These professionals work closely with medical staff and manage everything from group medical practices to state hospitals, says the U.S. Department of Labor. And with the complexities - i.e., problems - of delivering modern health care, it's no wonder that Lasson says that these professionals will do well to have good problem-solving skills.
One example is dealing with a long line in a waiting room or identifying more vital problems in a clinic or hospital before they cause important health issues with patients, he says.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.
Education Needed: The Department of Labor says that "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration." They add that it's also common for these professionals to have master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration.

Skill #5: Math

Did no one tell you there would be math involved? Well, believe it or not, all those calculations you cursed in school actually do have a place in the real world. At least that's what employers think, according to the Georgetown report. Math made the grade for top skills.
Why Math Skills Are Important: "Math is certainly important for jobs in science, technology, and engineering, and even for other jobs," says Lasson. "Unfortunately, tools like calculators, PCs, and other gadgets have become 'crutches' rather than the supplementary resources they are. But a basic understanding of mathematical principles is still important in working with Excel spreadsheets or evaluating reports."
Career Options for Those with Math Skills*:

Civil Engineer

Projected Job Growth: 19 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $79,340, with the bottom 10 percent making $51,280 and the top 10 percent making $122,020.**
These professionals design and oversee large construction projects, such as bridges, dams, airports, tunnels, and other structures, says the U.S. Department of Labor. So yes, there's math involved.
"For civil engineers, math skills are a must, specifically because people entering this profession will need math skills for surveying, calculating strength of materials, and solving engineering issues. There is also a financial component of the role in which an engineer will need to manage the finances of a project," says Wheatman.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Civil Engineering Program.
Education Needed: The U.S. Department of Labor says civil engineers must complete a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties, which should be approved by the ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Civil engineers must also be licensed if they sell their own services publicly, the Department says.

Accountant

Projected Job Growth: 16 percent**
Annual Median Salary: $63,550, with the bottom 10 percent making $39,930 and the top 10 percent making $111,510.**
Let's see, a profession with the nickname "number-crunchers." Think there will be some math? Oh yeah, these individuals do things like oversee organizations' financial records and make sure their taxes are paid properly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
"For accountants math is critical to tracking how and where money is allocated, as well as tracking and accounting for investments in various places," says Wheatman. Lasson adds that despite the prevalence of accounting software, math still plays a vital role in this occupation.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.
Education Needed: The Department of Labor says that most accountant positions require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer a master's degree in accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting.

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